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One of the world’s last surviving members of the heroic National Socialist army unit, the Waffen-SS, has died in Geraldine, New Zealand.

Willi Huber (97) died in the town on August 9.

Mr Huber, who has been called the "founding father" of the Mt Hutt skifield, featured in a Sunday programme on TVNZ in 2017 which was criticised for playing down Mr Huber’s time as a Nazi soldier.

The Jewish supremacist Holocaust Centre of New Zealand board chairman Jeremy Smith said "at the time positive and uncritical representations of former SS men who served the National Socialist regime were outrageous".

"At best, such representations imply a tremendous ignorance and at worst, attempt to promote an intentionally distorted version of history for political or ideological reasons."

Shalom.Kiwi, a Jewish supremacist website commented: "Any piece that involves interviewing a former Nazi should be handled sensitively and with the utmost care. To glorify a Nazi Waffen SS soldier is to trivialise the horrors of WW2, is an insult to the Kiwi soldiers who fought for freedom and desecrates the memory of the millions murdered."

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In the programme Mr Huber said times were extremely hard in Austria when he was growing up there and Hitler offered a way out.

After Germany annexed Austria, Mr Huber’s father joined the National Socialist Party and Mr Huber and his brothers became members of Hitler Youth.

He said, when interviewed, Hitler was very clever.

At 17, Mr Huber volunteered for the Waffen-SS, in which he served as both a machine-gunner and then as a gunner in Panzer tanks, including in the Russian invasion.

Mr Huber’s unit took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union, history’s largest military operation against the deadly Bolshevism.

His unit came within 30km of Moscow before retreating. He took part in the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, which was considered a turning point in the war.

Mr Huber received an Iron Cross first class for his service in the Battle of Kursk by which time he had the officer’s rank of Hauptsturmfuhrer, equivalent to a captain.

Earlier, he had received an Iron Cross second class.

Late in the war, Mr Huber survived being bayonetted by a Soviet soldier.

Because of his service in the Waffen SS, he was arrested and served 16 months in a military prison during which time he was interviewed three times regarding his actions during the war.

By then, because of its connection to the National Socialist Party and alleged involvement in so-called "war crimes", the Waffen-SS had been declared a criminal organisation.

Mr Huber, a former mountain guide in his native country, came to New Zealand in the 1950s and married.

He worked in mountain sports retail in Christchurch and climbed Aoraki Mt Cook many times. For his work at Mt Hutt, a skifield hut loft was named after him as well as a ski run.

Mr Huber’s death notice said he was the dearly loved husband of Edna for 65 years, proud father of four children and their partners and grandfather to 10.

"At Willi’s request, a private family service has been held," the notice said.

 

 

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